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Can My Spouse Start Divorce Proceedings Outside The UK Against My Will?

Date: June 20th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

 

The short answer is yes, provided that:

  • Your spouse does so in a country that has the jurisdiction to deal with the divorce; and
  • Serves you with the divorce petition in the proper way

In many divorces more than one country will have potential jurisdiction. And in Europe at least, if your spouse starts proceedings first you will only be able to stop them in very rare circumstances.

 

Why Does The Country Of Divorce Matter?

The eventual outcome in relation to finances and arrangements for children can differ hugely depending on where your divorce case is heard. As a result there is often a big incentive for one party to issue proceedings in a country of their choice (assuming the criteria for divorcing there are met) without giving notice to the other. Consider the following:

  • The courts in England and Wales are traditionally recognised as being more generous to financially weaker spouses
  • Different jurisdictions adopt varying approaches to valuing and dividing pensions, trusts and businesses
  • The tax treatment of any settlement will differ from country to country
  • Some legal systems are cheaper to use and more efficient than others

 

Does The Country Your Spouse Is Starting Proceedings In Have Jurisdiction?

Your spouse can only issue proceedings in a country with jurisdiction. In the EU this means fulfilling the criteria set out in the Brussels II Convention. In England and Wales this depends on the concepts of domicile and habitual residence. In other European countries nationality is usually the determining factor.

If your spouse wishes to divorce in a country outside the EU the situation is not so clear-cut. He or she will have to satisfy the rules regarding jurisdiction for that particular country. And what if one party to the divorce objects to the choice of a non-EU country as the place to commence proceedings? Then the courts will have to engage in a delicate balancing exercise to decide the correct forum for the divorce. As we have illustrated above that decision could have far reaching consequences for both sides in terms of any final settlement.

The issue of jurisdiction is often complicated, particularly when a non-EU country is involved. At Brookman we are familiar with international jurisdiction rules and have represented clients divorcing in countries across the world. If you would like to discuss any of the points we have call us on +44 (0) 20 7430 8470.

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Wim Jansen 24/06/2020

I contacted Brookman to ask for information regarding the validity of an international divorce court ruling. They were very quick in providing me with the right information. When I had another question a few months later around children matters I phoned them again and after taking some background information and contact details they booked me in for a free telephone consultation with 1 of their partners Talitha Brookman. She spent half an hour of her time explaining to me what I could expect and provided legal advice. All was free of charge. I would not hesitate to contact them again should any matter become more formal and have to go through court. The service has been quick, professional and very friendly.

Rebecca Brown 01/06/2020

Highly recommend this firm. Having searched around different firms for advice for some time, I had a free consultation with Henry Brookman. He was incredibly knowledgeable about my complex situation, gave straightforward advice and empowered me to understand exactly how I need to proceed.

Nik Carter 10/05/2020

I recently had a free initial consultation with Henry Brookman via video conference. He was considered and meticulous in his approach and gave me well thought through advice. He followed this up with a letter in writing summarising the advice he gave me. I would thoroughly recommend his services to anyone looking for legal representation in a divorce.

Sarah Jones 02/05/2020

Henry was extremely helpful and pleasant to speak with. He provided comprehensive advice in a matter of hours and responded promptly to any queries I had. I would highly recommend speaking with him.

Shazan Awam 19/04/2020

Very helpful and thorough advice. Highly Recommend!